Monday, January 21, 2013

Vacant Sky: Awakening is full of story-driven RPG goodness

On Friday, most of the roleplaying game community was abuzz over Bethesda's announcement that the latest Skyrim DLC Dragonborn would finally come to the PS3 and PC.  Because of this, a much smaller announcement managed to slip through the cracks - Vacant Sky: Awakening reached its first stretch goal on Kickstarter and will come to iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows.

What's Vacant Sky: Awakening, you might ask?  It's a grand rebuttal to the trend of modern RPGs to rely on random encounters and loot drops to pad out their content.  It's an open-armed embrace for gamers who prefer story and content over numbers and statistics.

In short, it might be one of the most innovative pre-apocalyptic RPGs to ever be conceived of:

The plot for Vacant Sky: Awakening is admittedly nothing special - players follow the life of a saucy minor noble on his quest to glory, fame, and riches.  What sets Vacant Sky apart in this approach, however, is that the game's narrative stretches over a span of seven years, and players will watch the characters grow up and come to terms with the new decisions and responsibilities that adulthood has forced upon them.

To that end, Vacant Sky relies heavily on player decision making and the bond of in-game relationships to determine everything from character advancement to plot devices (much like Persona).  There are no annoying tech trees or ability grids to familiarize yourself with in Vacant Sky, as the friendships you form and invest in will help determine what your character ultimately turns into.

Because the characters of Vacant Sky are aware of a looming apocalypse, the game itself is focused on time.  What this means, happily for the player, is that there are no random encounter battles or narrative-breaking XP grinding to distract them from the story. Sure, there's combat -  and it's of the traditional, turn-based flavor that helped make JRPGs so successful in the first place, but all battles are relevant to (or explained by) the plot.

Although the game is already funded (and then some), Vacant Sky's Kickstarter campaign is still active for another 15 days which means there's plenty of time to snag some nifty backer rewards like a digital copy of its soundtrack or a strategy guide/art book featuring the work of Kate Holden.

This may not be the localization announcement of Bravely Default Flying Fairy that many RPG fans  have been waiting for, but it's a nice surprise (and a sharp-looking game) all the same.  With any luck, it will also be the launch of a new series of successful games.